LONDON — With Rafael Nadal dismissed last week and a closed event all but rendered open seating, Mardy Fish liked his chances. Maybe this was going to be his Wimbledon.
“I have made quarterfinals before,’’ offered Fish, one of America’s last hopes at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club. “But every time I’ve played someone in the top two in the world [I’ve lost]. So [the chance] to play Philipp Kohlschreiber, who is a great player, but that’s a great draw for sure . . . ’’
But that opportunity now belongs to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Muhammad Ali lookalike, who Tuesday floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, using two days and a couple of rain delays to erase the Minnesota-born Fish, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Their match was suspended Monday because of rain, and interrupted again Tuesday for two hours as rain once more soaked SW 19’s emerald lawns.
“I would have beat a lot of players today,’’ said Fish, crediting Tsonga, seeded fifth here to Fish’s 10th. “He’s one of the best players in the world on this surface and one of the best players in the world, period.’’
Now in the quarterfinals, Tsonga Wednesday will take on Kohlschreiber, seeded No. 27 and ranked 121st in the world. The unheralded German could have been Fish’s gift to the semis, but Tsonga proved to be tougher and slightly more mobile.
Brian Baker was the other America man ousted Tuesday, his comeback tour truncated by Kohlschreiber, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Baker, a 27-year-old from Nashville, returned to the tour only last year after exiting in 2007 because of a series of injuries and operations, including three on his hip.
Baker now heads home, having lasted longer here than the likes of Nadal and fellow Yank Andy Roddick.
“If someone had told me when I left [home] — I think I was ranked something like No. 220 when I came over here, and then to leave maybe around No. 80 — I would have been very, very happy.’’
Baker is slated to play in Newport, but he said before leaving here that he’s not sure he will be in Rhode Island. Ideally, he said, he’d like to keep hammering the hardcourts this summer and build momentum into the US Open.
“Basically, since I’ve been coming back, it’s been about the health,’’ he said. “Now it’s about the game. So that’s a good thing.’’
Prior to the loss to Kohlschreiber, Baker defeated Rui Machado, Jarkko Nieminen, and Benoit Paire. This was only his second appearance in a Grand Slam event. He played in the French Open this year and was ousted in Round 2.
“I hope to keep having good results,’’ said Baker, “leading into the US Open and see where the sky, where the limit is.’’
Maria Sharapova, though disappointed by her loss Monday in the Round of 16 to Sabine Lisicki, sounded nonetheless relieved to get a break from the game — after winning the French Open and then making it to Week 2 here.
Lisicki, the No. 15 seed who Tuesday took on fellow German Angelique Kerber (8), three times now has dumped the French champion at Wimbledon. In ’09, she beat Svetlana Kuznetsova, then followed that last year with a win over Li Na.
“I like to be aggressive in general,’’ said Lisicki, fluent in German, English, and Polish, her parents having emigrated from Poland. “So I think that’s why grass suits me well.’’
Lisicki has never won a Grand Slam event and her best showings have been here, where she made it to the quarters in ’09 and the semis in ’11. She’ll have to wait at least one more year here, after she was erased by Kerber in a tight three-setter, 6-3, 6-7, 5-7, under the closed roof at Centre Court.
Ovechkin on hand
While the NHL sorts out free agency, Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin is here, and was front and center to see girlfriend Maria Kirilenko, who lost to Agnieszka Radwanska, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 . . . Fish would not comment about it after the loss, but he was clearly perturbed when his request for a medical trainer turned into a protracted wait. He would not go into detail, but noted his back was the issue . . . Tsonga has never won a slam, but he made it to the final in Australia in ’08. He was bounced in the semis here last year . . . Fish made it to the quarters here last year and also made it to the quarters in the ’11 US Open . . . Rain or shine, Roger Federer will face Mikhail Youzhny in the Centre Court opener Wednesday afternoon, followed by David Ferrer and Andy Murray. Weather permitting, defending champ Novak Djokovic faces Florian Mayer, followed by Tsonga-Kohlschreiber.